roadtrip

Panoramics at a Mormon Ghost Town

This week my Photo Communication class and a few folks from my Advanced Photography class headed up into the Portneuf River Valley, about an hour southeast from the university, for some panoramic fieldwork. The valley was beautiful this time of year, situated between the Bannock and Portneuf mountain ranges at 5,446 feet (1,660m) elevation. Our fieldwork site was the Mormon ghost town of Chesterfield.

Situated along the Oregon Trail, Chesterfield began as a village settlement during the early 1880s. However, after the turn-of-the-century, this rural community began to suffer the effects of drought, harsh winters, and the construction of Union Pacific’s rail line a dozen miles south at Bancroft. By the late 1920s and into the ‘30s, Chesterfield continued to fail due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl affects throughout the Intermountain West.

With cameras and tripods in hand, the ISU photo students tackled their work with much enthusiasm! Dividing into small teams, they conducted photographic survey work of the old town site. Using a variety of photographic methodologies, they crafted images ranging from multiple-image panoramic landscape shots, to detailed close-up interior architectural views within abandoned structures still containing home-preserved jars of fruits and vegetables.

Late in the afternoon, we drove over to the Chesterfield Reservoir to scout future sites for nighttime astrophotography; specifically, star trails. Afterwards, we headed out of the valley to Lava Hot Springs, where we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Chuck Wagon restaurant. Below are some shots of my students engaged in their fieldwork at Chesterfield, along with a few of my interpretations of the experience.

Pano of Chesterfield using six vertically stitched images from my Nikon D800 with 1962 vintage 50mm/1.4 lens. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Pano of Chesterfield using six vertically stitched images from my Nikon D800 with 1962 vintage 50mm/1.4 lens. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View of the Portneuf Range in B&W. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View of the Portneuf Range in B&W. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Same view in color...can't make up my mind! © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Same view in color…can’t make up my mind! © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View towards Portneuf Range with dramatic skies. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

View towards Portneuf Range with dramatic skies. © 2013 Terry Ownby.

Click here to see more students in action!

Click here to see more students in action!

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Cowboys, Stars, and Prairie Ghosts

Last week was our spring break, so a much needed road trip to the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas was taken. Wilson, my colleague and shooting partner, joined me for a few days in the Flint Hills, where we made Cottonwood Falls our base of operation. Specifically, we stayed at an eclectic little stone motel called the Millstream Resort Motel, overlooking the Cottonwood River.

Our timing for the trip was great, as we had clear skies and no snow storms until after we returned! I had recently read Jim Hoy’s (director of the Center for Great Plains Studies) book, Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales from the Tallgrass Prairie, so many of the small towns he mentioned became our venues for imaging making. Plus, after talking with a local gravedigger, we found other exciting places to visit, such as living ghost towns, abandoned farmsteads, octogenarian speedsters, and an idle gristmill from the 19th century.

In keeping with Hunter Neal’s classic rendition of the Kansas Food Pyramid (see drawing diagram below), I had to continue my quest of sampling biscuits and gravy at the local cafes. We also were introduced to a new culinary delight known as bierocks, at Dave’s Place on the edge of Strong City.

We managed to photograph star trails two nights at the Chase County State Lake, which is just south of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Clear, crisp nights with a half-moon made for some interesting shots. Wilson did manage to have frost develop on his lens while the temps dropped and we enjoyed a variety of ales. Moose Drool Brown Ale by Big Sky Brewing and Single-Wide IPA by Boulevard proved to be favorites!

As I continue my creative research in the Flint Hills, this trip allowed me to pursue my multimedia interests with digital still photography. Here, I’m exploring the visual dimensions coupled with ambient or natural audio. New photographic toys under investigation were my new Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 (35mm modern-day scioptic lens), Tascam DR-07MKII digital audio recorder, and a new lightweight carbon-fiber tripod by Induro (CT-214).

Here’s some images from the trip…enjoy!

Windmill near Chase County State Lake, Cottonwood, Kansas. © Terry Ownby.

Windmill near Chase County State Lake, Cottonwood, Kansas. © Terry Ownby.

Forgotten swings at the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse near Spring Hill Ranch in the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve, sway in during strong prairie winds on our recent visit. © Terry Ownby.

Forgotten swings at the Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse near Spring Hill Ranch in the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve, sway in during strong prairie winds on our recent visit.To see animation, click on image. © Terry Ownby.

Breakfast at Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, KS. © Terry Ownby

Breakfast at Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, KS. © Terry Ownby

The only church in Bazaar, Kansas, heart of cattle grazing country in the Flint Hills. © Terry Ownby

The only church in Bazaar, Kansas, heart of cattle grazing country in the Flint Hills. © Terry Ownby

Star trails at the Chase County Fishing Lake, just west from Cottonwood Fall, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Star trails at the Chase County Fishing Lake, just west from Cottonwood Fall, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Doctor William B. Jones build this farmstead in 1878. © Terry Ownby

Doctor William B. Jones build this farmstead in 1878. © Terry Ownby

Sycamore trees along Cedar Creek, near Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Sycamore trees along Cedar Creek, near Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Strong City Rodeo champions from the past. Blonde-haired Marge Roberts was a trick rider at the rodeo known for her standing upright "Dive" on a speeding horse, during the 1950s. © Terry Ownby

Strong City Rodeo champions from the past. Blonde-haired Marge Roberts was a trick rider at the rodeo known for her standing upright “Dive” on a speeding horse, during the 1950s. © Terry Ownby

Abandoned grist mill along side the Cottonwood River in a living ghost town called Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Abandoned grist mill along side the Cottonwood River in a living ghost town called Cedar Point, Kansas. © Terry Ownby

Hunter Neal's version of the food pyramid, after his photo expedition to the Kansas prairie. © Hunter Neal

Hunter Neal’s version of the food pyramid, after his photo expedition to the Kansas prairie. © Hunter Neal

Prairie Spirit Orb

The weekend following Halloween found me trekking across the Flint Hills prairie. Staying out late on Saturday night at the Konza prairie proved rewarding, as my colleagues and I were treated to some tricks down in the hollow that sheltered the Hokanson farmstead, built over 130 years ago. Although Andrew Hokanson was Swedish, this author’s ancestry was Celtic from the British Isles. In Celtic mythology the Halloween or Samhain season was the ending of the harvest season and the turning into the dark season, which was when the sídhe doorways (fairy portals) were open to the Otherworld. It appears we had an Otherworldly performance for our cameras that night! Enjoy this magically captured performance art!

Spirit activity at the Hokanson Farmstead in the Konza prairie. © Terry Ownby 2012.

Autumn on the Tall Grass Prairie

At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to return to the prairie with friends and colleagues. Although we missed the peak colors, this was still our first trip out there during this time of year and it was just as beautiful, in its own natural way. Joining us from Connecticut was photographer Hunter Neal. He quickly assimilated into our banter and camaraderie, including sampling canned sausage gravy and biscuits and other local fare.

Included in this post are a few samples shot with the Lensbaby Composer Pro. This is a 50mm selective focus Double Glass Optic with drop in aperture discs. The lens was great fun and I’m looking forward to working with its wide-angle, 35mm counterpart, the Composer Pro with Sweet 35, which has built-in apertures.

Sunrise on Kings Creek, near Hokanson Homestead. © Terry Ownby.

Looking south at the Konza Prairie. © Terry Ownby.

View from the Radio Tower at Konza Prairie. © Terry Ownby.

In search of bison at the National Tall Grass Prairie Preserver. © Terry Ownby.

Cottonwoods in gulch on Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. © Terry Ownby.

Big Cottonwoods on southern section of Tall Grass Prairie. © Terry Ownby.

Courthouse at Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. © Terry Ownby.

Hunter Neal photographing sunset at Konza Prairie.

West Kansas Geology and Astronomical Events

This past week I made my annual photo trek to Kansas with Wilson Hurst and had interesting adventures. Typically, we roam around the Flint Hills and photograph on the prairie, but this summer we decided to explore new terrain further west…as in almost to the Colorado border! Being out on the west side of the state was like being in a completely alien environment when compared to the calming prairie. The western side of the state is raw and harsh. High temperatures, gale-force winds, and limited visibility from blowing sand marked our three-day sojourn.

Home base was Oakley, where we stayed at a local motel run by a pleasant Indian family, complete with their Hindu alter on the check-in desk. Although, I had tried to get us a room at the Annie Oakley Motel, but unfortunately it was booked solid for a family reunion. But, our base of operations worked fine after Wilson figured out I didn’t know how to properly run our air conditioner!

Landmarks photographed during this expedition included Castle Rock Badlands, which is about 30 miles south of Quinter and only accessible by gravel roads. Our favorite place where we shot star-trails two nights in a row was the well-known Monument Rocks, or the Pyramids, as the locals call them. At a distance Monument Rocks gives the impression of Stonehenge, except magnified. The exposed gypsum columns rise 70 feet (21 meters) in the air, making them rather impressive! During the long hours of photographing star-trails, we saw several meteorites, satellites, and a US Air Force KC-10 refueling a C-17 cargo jet. The moonless nights provided an inky backdrop for the stars, which were incredibly bright and the skies remarkably clear, considering the violent winds that would not abate.

Below are a few shots from that trip. Enjoy!

Star trails looking north at Monument Rocks in western Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Camera setup for shooting startrails at Monument Rocks, about 25 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Yucca and sage brush dot the landscape near Castle Rocks in west Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Panorama of Castle Rock Badlands, located south of Quinter, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Monument Rocks at sunset. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Entrance to Larry Farmer’s Prairie Dog Town, Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Queen size beds at the Annie Oakley Motel located in Oakley, Kansas. © 2012 Terry Ownby.

Brooklyn in B&W

While on our recent trip to New York over spring break, I had an opportunity to spend a morning in Brooklyn. Specifically, I was in the DUMBO area (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). During the late 19th century, this area was a manufacturing district and housed numerous warehouses and factories. The whole area reminded of the work by documentary photographer and sociologist, Lewis W. Hine. I could easily imagine him photographing children laboring within these massive structures a hundred years ago. I think it was that feeling of his documentary work that helped me pre-visual my images as black and white. After wondering some of the narrow cobble-stone streets between towering warehouses, I ventured down to the waterfront along the East River, to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. This park lies between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Here I happened upon Jane’s Carousel, which I had previously learned about on CBS Sunday Morning. Housed in an all-glass pavilion is a 90-year old carousel that has been painstakingly restored to its original look, after being rescued from Youngstown, Ohio. While photographing the carousel, a lady standing next to me told me her story of riding that carousel as a child and she was visiting it with her sister so their children could ride it as well. Neat story. Enjoy my B&Ws!

The Manhattan Bridge with Empire State Building in background.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Support stanchion on the Brooklyn Bridge.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Manhattan Bridge viewed from Brooklyn's DUMBO district.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Jane's Carousel beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Detail shot of Jane's Carousel with Brooklyn Bridge viewed through glass pavilion.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Close-up view of carousel horse figure after restoration.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Carousel in motion with Manhattan Bridge in background.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Storefront for Grimaldi's pizzeria in Brooklyn.
© 2012 Terry Ownby

Brooklyn Bridge

Last Friday morning we spent time walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Afterwards, we made our way around the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I shot this panorama. The Brooklyn Bridge is to the left, while to the right is the Manhattan Bridge. Once we finished photographing along the waterfront, we went over a couple of blocks and had an incredible New York style pizza at Grimaldi’s, which is famous for their pizzas.

The waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.

New York City: Spring Break

For a number of years, a colleague from the Art Department has encouraged me to join him with some of our photography students on his annual trip to New York City during our spring break. This year I finally had time to take him up on his offer. We started recruiting students during the fall semester and when our trip began, we had 14 students (9 were photography majors). It was a five day/four night trip and we were based in mid-town Manhattan, just a couple of blocks south of Central Park.

Using the subway system allowed us to easily navigate from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn. Times Square was visited a few times in the evening for great photo ops. We also did the typical tourist activities, such as going up the Empire State Building, standing in the center of the Grand Central Terminal, visiting the 911 Memorial, and dining in Chinatown and Little Italy. Since I’m a food photographer (and foodie!), sampling international fare was on my list of quests. I managed to sample Irish, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Turkish cuisine that would be impossible to find locally. The Spanish tapas and seafood paella in Greenwich Village at the Spain Restaurant and Bar were by far my favorite indulgence!

From a photographic standpoint, we saw lots of great images, both historical and contemporary at venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the NYC Public Library, and the International Center for Photography.  Names such as Frith, Baldus, and Atget were some of the more historical work viewed, while Weegee and Grey Villet helped transition to more contemporary imagery, which included Cindy Sherman, Greg Girard, and Francesca Woodman.

Below are a few of my favorites from the trip, enjoy!

Lower Manhattan in the fog.

Some of my students outside the Met.

Shopkeeper and his market in Chinatown.

"Christmas Story" relived!

Fog moving in on the Empire State Building.

Midtown Manhattan with the Hudson River.

Lower Manhattan at sunset.

A quiet moment at the NYC Public Library.

The 911 Memorial fountains at dusk.

Early Mornings

I’ve been thinking about early morning hikes on the Tall Grass Prairie so I thought I’d share another image from this past fall’s outing with friends and UCM students.